Wes Clark on the Iraq War

March 3, 2007

9/20/01: “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.”

AMY GOODMAN: Now, let’s talk about Iran. You have a whole website devoted to stopping war.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Www.stopiranwar.com.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a replay in what happened in the lead-up to the war with Iraq — the allegations of the weapons of mass destruction, the media leaping onto the bandwagon?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, in a way. But, you know, history doesn’t repeat itself exactly twice. What I did warn about when I testified in front of Congress in 2002, I said if you want to worry about a state, it shouldn’t be Iraq, it should be Iran. But this government, our administration, wanted to worry about Iraq, not Iran.

I knew why, because I had been through the Pentagon right after 9/11. About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, “Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” I said, “Well, you’re too busy.” He said, “No, no.” He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said, “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” — meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office — “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!” (more…)


January 22, 2007

Just War Theory

Filed under: Legitimacy, Project for a New American Century (PNAC), speeches, Strategy — faithinwes @ 3:53 pm

Delivered at UCLA, Burkle Center for International Relations, January 22, 2007

Thank you very much for that- Thank you very much for that warm welcome, and thank you very much Dean Schill for your kind introduction and the opportunity to speak here. Now, someone asked me when I was coming up here today was I going to announce for the Presidency. (laughter) The answer’s no. I haven’t ruled out something like that, but I’m not here today in a political purpose. If you want to see the latest, go to my website http://www.securingamerica.com . You can see the speech I gave in Alabama last Monday, and it will- that, that’s the Political side. I’m not here to talk politics.

I’m really here in an academic setting, in a policy setting and a legal setting, because I think that war and law are two critically important regimes of study and practice in The United States of America, and it’s very difficult to find people who really do the crosswalk well. And yet, the failure to do the crosswalk can lead to enormous policy failures.

So, what I’d like to do today is talk about legitimacy, legality and public support in warfare, and I’d like to talk about it – if you’ll permit me to do so – as a scholar, as an academician, as a practitioner but not as a- someone who ran for office or someone who might run for office. So, I’d like to just set aside partisanship. There’s no partisanship in this. I just want to give you my best judgment from my various fields of experience, and it doesn’t matter to me whether you’re Republican, Democrat, Independent or- it, it just doesn’t matter. This is about our country and about our world, not about partisan politics.

I think we’re at an inflection point in American history. This is one of those moments where so much will depend on the outcome, the decisions, the choices made by our government in the weeks ahead. America’s Army is in a crisis. We’re bogged down in a failing war in Iraq. We’re- the President said we’re going to put 20,000 more troops in, but that’s a really hard stretch. No one wants to go to the draft, and yet recruiting’s been difficult in this environment. The Iraq Study Group called for a drawdown, but the Iraq Study Group was taken by many as an admission of failure. It’s driven our Sunni allies in the, allies in the region into despair, and it’s made Iran even more triumphalist than it had already been, and it’s recognition that Al Qaeda is more numerous, increasingly diffused, and still very much lethal. Congress is preparing to vote against and block the President’s policy of surging more troops into Iraq. If they succeed in doing that, then we’re into a different period.

It’s a moment of signal importance. It’s the first real check on the President’s foreign policy by Congress. For the region, it’s a shock as the U.S. is seriously considering a straight run of Neoconservative policies in the region, which saw the invasion of Iraq as the first step in knocking off regimes in the region – Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Libya, Somalia, Sudan – and a complete reordering of the Middle East, and that’s clearly not likely to happen on the current course of action.

And globally, we’re at a moment where U.S. prestige and power are hanging in the balance. What’s happened to this United States of America since the 11th of September of 2001 when 200,000 Germans demonstrated at the Brandenburger Gate, when people all over the world came out and supported us? What’s happened? (more…)

October 27, 2006

Wesley Clark’s conspiracy theory

Filed under: Project for a New American Century (PNAC) — faithinwes @ 8:34 pm


“But this administration determined shortly after 9/11, perhaps on the same day, that they would invade Iraq and settle on old score and move into that strategy that Paul Wolfowitz had described to me in 1991,” he said. “There was no public debate, there was no discussion of what this meant. There was obfuscation.”

Although then a private citizen, Clark said he visited Secretary Rumsfeld in the Pentagon in the week after 9/11 and while there was summoned by a general he was still on good terms with who into his office.

“He said, ‘Sir, we’re going to invade Iraq,'” Clark recalled. “I said, ‘We’re going to invade Iraq? Why?’ And he said, ‘I don’t really know why, it doesn’t’t’t’t make a whole lot of sense, but they [the administration] doesn’t know what to do about the problem of terrorists, and if only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem has to look like a nail.’

“He said, ‘We don’t know what to do about terrorism, but we can take down governments, so I guess we are looking for governments to take down.'”

Clark said he was in the Pentagon again in November of 2001, visiting the same unnamed general.

“I said are we still going to invade Iraq?” Clark said. “He said, ‘Yes sir, but it’s worse than that'” and that the general said he had just gotten a memo from Rumsfeld’s office containing a disturbing “five year plan.”

“We’re going to take down seven countries in five years,” Clark quoted the general. “We’re going to start with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, then Libya, Somalia, Sudan and we’re going to come back and get Iran in five years.”

Clark said only then did he begin to understand “what wasn’t being explained to the American people, which was the overall drift of where the policy was…

“The decisions had been made long before they went through the charade of going to the United Nations [for authority to invade Iraq] and there were people actively pulling within the administration for the failure of diplomacy because they didn’t want anything to stop the invasion.

“I don’t know what they were thinking about,” Clark said, his voice rising with indignation. “They obviously never went to war — war is ugly, it is unpredictable, and when you kill peoples’ relatives, they hate your forever.

“When you go to war, it is a permanent act, it marks forever a line that can’t be walked back,” Clark added, now almost mournfully. “We went to war in Iraq, we did it on the basis of hyped intelligence and an underlining theory that was never explained to the American people…

“My friends, I ask you, how could we in this country, with all it stands for — Democracy, freedom, human rights, respect for the individual, a belief if the worth of every person — how could we have done this and believe we wouldn’t pay the price,” the retired general said. “It was a colossal strategic blunder.”

But the blunder has bogged us down in Iraq for more than three years and Clark believes it was also the un-doing of a seven-country conspiracy that would have taken us to war all over the Middle East to make it “ours.”

Tuscaloosa News  10/27/06

October 13, 2006

“Well, don’t show it to me, because I want to be able to talk about it.”

Filed under: Project for a New American Century (PNAC) — faithinwes @ 11:45 pm

University of Alabama, October 13, 2006

…So, when 9/11 happened, we didn’t have a national strategy. The American people weren’t engaged, and what happened is that we went to war in Afghanistan. We had to, but this administration determined shortly after 9/11, perhaps on the same day, that they would invade Iraq and settle an old score and move into that strategy that Paul Wolfowitz had described to me in 1991. There was no public debate. There was no discussion of what this meant. There was obfuscation. I went through the Pentagon a week after 9/11. One of the Generals called me in, and he said, “Sir,” he said, “come in here in my office.” I’d gone in to see Secretary Rumsfeld, because after you’ve been in the uniform for 35 years, when you’re suddenly on CNN, and you know the people who are in, and you feel like you’re still part of the Army. I kept looking at my suit and looking for that big black stripe that you wear around your sleeve and looking, my, my shoulder was bare, and I was in a blue suit, not a green one, and I wasn’t Air Force either. (laughter) And so, I had to go back and touch base, you know, to the Pentagon.

So, the General calls me after I’d seen Rumsfeld. He said, “Sir, come in here.” He said, “Sir, we’re going to invade Iraq.” I said, “We’re going to invade Iraq!?! Why?” And he said, “Because,” he says, “I don’t know why. Really,” he said, “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but,” he said, “I guess they don’t know what to do about the problem of terrorism, and if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem has to look like a nail.” He said, “We don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we can take down governments. So, I guess they’re looking for a government to take down. Meanwhile we started bombing in Afghanistan. So well, I came back to see the same General in early November. I said, “Are we still going to invade Iraq?” He said, “Yes, Sir,” he said, “but it’s worse than that.” I said, “How do you mean?” He held up this piece of paper. He said, “I just got this memo today or yesterday from the office of the Secretary of Defense upstairs. It’s a, it’s a five-year plan. We’re going to take down seven countries in five years. We’re going to start with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, then Libya, Somalia, Sudan, we’re going to come back and get Iran in five years. I said, “Is that classified, that paper?” He said, “Yes Sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me, because I want to be able to talk about it.” And I begin to see what wasn’t being explained to the American people, which was the overall drift of where the policy was. We still didn’t have a strategy, but we were driven to take action.”

Securing America

May 2, 2006

“I went to several Senators, including I think a couple who later ran for office”

Al Franken: And it’s, it’s one thing for somebody who voted for this war saying, you know, ‘You have to assume the President’s telling the truth. You can’t assume a President is lying.’ But then on the other hand, the American people want someone who’s a better BS detector than they are. And, and you know, I think I would have voted for the use of force, because I would’ve believed, I believed Colin Powell. I didn’t have any reason to think that I couldn’t believe Colin Powell. I didn’t have a reason to believe that the administration would be misleading us, and they did.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I didn’t, I didn’t believe it because I went through the Pentagon a few days after 9/11, and the Generals in the Pentagon told me, “Hey sir,” they said, “ These guys have made the decision to invade Iraq.”

Al Franken: Right.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: This was like, the 20th of September. I said, “They have.” He said, “Oh, yes sir. They’ve already decided.” I went back a couple of months later, and said, “Are they still going to invade Iraq?” This is like, November. Said, “Oh, yes sir. In fact there’s even a plan to- After they finish with Iraq, they’re going to take on Syria and Lebanon. Eventually they’re going to end up in Iran.” This is a whole five-year campaign plan to go from country to country kicking out dictators and taking over and imposing Democracy.

Al Franken: Now I know you’re a Four-Star General, and, and so the guys at the Pentagon would say, “Sir, they’re planning (laughs) to invade Iraq. But how did, how did the Senators on the Intelligence Committee not hear that?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, a lot of them did, because I told a lot of them.

Al Franken: Uh huh. And, and, and did, did they believe you. I mean non-

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: They may have believed me, but you know, there’s a lot of different shades of truth in Washington. And it’s, I mean, I told people about the five-year plan, and people would say, ‘Well you know, yeah, there may be somebody who wrote that, but maybe they won’t do that.’

Al Franken: Right, right, right.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: ‘You know, we’ve got politics to worry about. Can we afford to be on the wrong side of President Bush on this.

Al Franken: Mm hm.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: He’s going to turn the American people against us. Look what happened in 1990.’

Al Franken: Okay, but that’s not, that’s. I understand why. Yeah, anybody who voted against the first Gulf War was, was, was not considered to be on the ticket.


Al Franken: For example.


Al Franken: And so that’s, that can- But that’s not leadership. Is it?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well you know, when you’re in politics, especially if you’re a lifelong politician, you have to make sure you’re also representing the people who follow you. So, there’s a combination of leading and following that’s involved in that. Even the President is, to some extent, a representative of the American people. He’s certainly not the king. He doesn’t dictate. I know he said he’s the decider, but-

Al Franken: (laughs) Yeah.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: But (laughs) in fact, he is supposed to be the Chief Executive Officer representing the American people.

Al Franken: Yeah, I, I, I know, I know, but I’m saying that these Senators- there is a certain point – and boy, at the point when you’re voting to go to war or not – and they didn’t- You know, in fairness I guess, they were told they were voting for peace. They, they were told they were voting so that, that we could go to the UN and, and make the convincing argument to the UN that we would be willing to go into Iraq unilaterally. Therefore, we would have the, the leverage to get the inspectors in.

: Well, you know, I went to several Senators, including I think a couple who later ran for office, and, for the Presidency. I said, “Don’t believe him.” (laughs) “He’s made up his mind to go to war. Don’t give him a blank check.”

Al Franken: Mm Hm.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: But they gave him a blank check. I said it on CNN, “You can’t give him a blank check.” And I said it in the testimony that you have to make sure that there’s a resolution. It’s got to be a broad resolution so we can go to the United Nations, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t be a blank check.

Al Franken Show/Air America 5/2/06

June 17, 2004

9/11 Panel Denies Al-Qaeda-Iraq Links

Filed under: 9.11, Project for a New American Century (PNAC) — faithinwes @ 9:05 pm

WASHINGTON – In a direct challenge to recent assertions by both President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the special bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against New York and the Pentagon has found “no credible evidence” of any operational link between Iraq and al-Qaeda.-snip

The commission’s conclusion on the absence of ties between Hussein and al-Qaeda is also certain to further discredit the so-called neoconservatives both inside and outside the administration who led the march to war. Many of them were behind what appeared to be an orchestrated campaign to implicate Hussein in the 9/11 attacks themselves.


A hint of a deliberate campaign to connect Iraq with 9/11 and al-Qaeda surfaced one year ago in a televised interview of General Wesley Clark on the popular public-affairs program, Meet the Press. In answer to a question, Clark asserted, “there was a concerted effort during the fall of 2001, starting immediately after 9/11, to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein.”

“It came from the White House, it came from other people around the White House. It came from all over. I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, ‘you got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein.'”

AntiWar.com 6/17/04

May 1, 2004

Broken Engagement by Wesley Clark

Filed under: OpEds, Project for a New American Century (PNAC), Strategy — faithinwes @ 12:27 am

Washington Monthly, May 2004

The strategy that won the Cold War could help bring democracy to the Middle East– if only the Bush hawks understood it.

During 2002 and early 2003, Bush administration officials put forth a shifting series of arguments for why we needed to invade Iraq. Nearly every one of these has been belied by subsequent events. We have yet to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; assuming that they exist at all, they obviously never presented an imminent threat. Saddam’s alleged connections to al Qaeda turned out to be tenuous at best and clearly had nothing to do with September 11. The terrorists now in Iraq have largely arrived because we are there, and Saddam’s security forces aren’t. And peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which prominent hawks argued could be achieved “only through Baghdad,” seems further away than ever.

Advocates of the invasion are now down to their last argument: that transforming Iraq from brutal tyranny to stable democracy will spark a wave of democratic reform throughout the Middle East, thereby alleviating the conditions that give rise to terrorism. This argument is still standing because not enough time has elapsed to test it definitively–though events in the year since Baghdad’s fall do not inspire confidence. For every report of a growing conversation in the Arab world about the importance of democracy, there’s another report of moderate Arabs feeling their position undercut by the backlash against our invasion. For every example of progress (Libya giving up its WMD program), there’s an instance of backsliding (the Iranian mullahs purging reformist parliamentarians).

What is certainly true is that any hope for a “domino theory” rests with Iraq’s actually becoming something that resembles a stable democracy. But here, too, there has been little progress. Despite their heroic efforts, American soldiers have been unable to make the country consistently stable and safe. Iraq’s various ethnic entities and political factions remain deeply divided. Even the administration has concluded that the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council lacks credibility with the ordinary Iraqis it is intended to represent. The country’s reconstituted security forces have been ineffectual–indeed, in some cases, they have joined the armed resistance to our occupation. The ease with which the demagogue Muqtada al-Sadr brought thousands to the streets and effectively took over a key city for weeks has sparked fears that an Iranian-style theocracy will emerge in Iraq. And the American and Iraqi civilian death tolls continue to mount.

Whether or not you agreed with the president’s decision to invade Iraq–and I did not–there’s no doubt that America has a right and a duty to take whatever actions are necessary, including military action, to protect ourselves from the clear security threats emanating from this deeply troubled part of the world. Authoritarian rule in these countries has clearly created fertile ground for terrorists, and so establishing democratic governance in the region must be seen as one of our most vital security goals. There is good reason, however, to question whether the president’s strategy is advancing or hindering that goal.

President Bush’s approach to Iraq and to the Middle East in general has been greatly influenced by a group of foreign-policy thinkers whose defining experience was as hawkish advisors to President Reagan and the first President Bush, and who in the last few years have made an explicit comparison between Middle Eastern regimes and the Soviet Union. These neoconservatives looked at the nest of problems caused by Middle East tyranny and argued that a morally unequivocal stance and tough military action could topple those regimes and transform the region as surely as they believed that Reagan’s aggressive rhetoric and military posture brought down the Soviet Union. In a March 2002 interview on CNN, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, one of the main architects of the Iraq war, argued that the moral judgment that President Bush made “very clear, crystal clear in his State of the Union message” in which he laid out the Axis of Evil is “exactly the same kind of clarity, I think, that Ronald Reagan introduced in understanding the Soviet Union.” In a speech last year, Defense Department advisor Richard Perle made the comparison even more explicit: “I have no doubt that [Bush] has the vision that Ronald Reagan had, and can envision, can contemplate change on a very large scale in Iraq and elsewhere across the region.” (more…)

April 22, 2004

“Attacking Iraq was the goal of President Bush’s praetorian guard”

Filed under: Project for a New American Century (PNAC) — faithinwes @ 12:38 am

After the deceptively easy victory in Afghanistan, “Bush at war” returned in the shape of the campaign against Iraq. In fact, as Bob Woodward recounts, Paul Wolfowitz had already proposed on 15 September 2001 to attack Iraq instead of Afghanistan because this seemed to him a more feasible objective. The former treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, and General Wesley Clark have confirmed that the idea of attacking Iraq was the goal of President Bush’s praetorian guard since the beginning of his tenure; Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial grip on power represented for them a permanent checkmate of the United States.

Open Democracy,  4/22/04

January 22, 2004

Clark’s congressional testimony “helped crystallize our thinking”

At least some members of Congress say they were swayed by Clark’s nuanced critique before the war. Democratic Representatives Vic Snyder of Arkansas and John Spratt of South Carolina, in a statement provided to the Globe, said Clark’s congressional testimony “helped crystallize our thinking” on an alternative war resolution in the fall of 2002 that would have authorized military action but only with approval from the United Nations or Congress. The resolution failed.

Clark explained the discrepancy in an interview with the Globe this week. He said that when he spoke to Congress, appeared on CNN, and wrote for the Times of London, he held his true feelings back, hamstrung by constraints that ranged from the limitations on his TV contract to a reluctance to criticize Americans in a foreign paper to his efforts to influence Congress with measured speech. Clark also said the post-war absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq further hardened his views.

On the campaign trail, he said, “I’m not testifying in front of Congress. I’m in front of a crowd of people, and they’re pretty angry at the fact that their sons and daughters and their husbands and wives and their families have been sent abroad, disrupted, caused them terrible hardship, and they’re serving in Iraq in a war we didn’t have to fight.”

Clark’s drive for the presidency is in large part fueled by his extensive military resume. Many antiwar voters view him as uniquely qualifed to question Bush’s Iraq policy. And he has evolved into a fervently antiwar candidate, often shouting denunciations of Bush and hinting at conspiracies behind the war.

These days, Clark seems hard-pressed to find any rational explanation for invading Iraq. Asked why the administration would have wanted to, Clark shrugged and said Congress should investigate the White House to produce an answer. He said he had heard “speculation” that the Iraq war had “all been cooked up and passed through to make the president look strong and commanding in front of the American people.”

Boston Globe,  1/22/2004

January 15, 2004

“I’m saying the whole doctrine that was written is phony.”

GWEN IFILL: There’s one Democratic candidate missing from the fray in Iowa and that’s retired General Wesley Clark.

As his profile has risen, so have the attacks. Today in New Hampshire, for instance, reporters asked him to respond to Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie’s charge that he has flip-flopped on the Iraq war.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, first of all, what it is is old-style politics. This is material that’s been dug up by the Republican National Committee.

Ed Gillespie should have read the whole testimony because it totally refutes the Bush position. I guess, instead that Karl Rove must have read the Richard Cohen column in the Post today because it looks like they finally figured out I’m George Bush’s greatest threat.

What I was saying then is what I’m saying today: That Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat, that actions contemplated against Saddam Hussein did not constitute preemptive war, contrary to what the Bush administration was saying, because there was no imminent threat. (more…)

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.